And Speaking of Dead People

A few weeks ago, my sister in law and I held a garage sale at a family beach condo. I know, rough life. But if you are going to be at the beach, I recommend you go out TO THE BEACH. An indoor garage sale didn’t afford much coastal breeze.

In deciding what to call this sale, we rejected garage sale, since it did not relate to a garage in any way. We also rejected yard sale for similar reasons. The label that came closest to defining our terms was Estate Sale, which indicates a total liquidation of contents and almost always means an indoor, walk-through-the-home sale. Perfect. Well, almost.

Two people expressed their condolences over the death of our parents. My parents are still alive. Some might even call them energetically alive. Dare I say spry? My sister in law also has living parents right here in town. I felt awkward explaining away the dead people. The sympathizers didn’t buy anything. I guess they told us.

At any rate, the end of the sale rendered more than $700 in revenue and no dead bodies. However, there were two different occasions in which we each thought the other might be dead.

And it is those dead people and their killers about whom I write.

I’ve already told you there are no actual dead people in this blog. If there were, I would hopefully take a decidedly different tone. But the fear of Death by Crazies came up twice.

The first occasion happened when an old codger named Tom wandered into our “estate.” He explained that he was a property owner and had 3 condos right there in our building. Two were in good, rentable condition. One was being renovated. Since our kitchen was ripped out and being redone, he was interested in what we were doing and willing to offer free advice. (As a side note, I cannot count the number of times people came in and said, “How much did you get for your kitchen?” “Oh, ha ha. Yes, well…we didn’t sell it. Blabety blabb blabb.” Ah, we wore that joke out.) Before the conversation with Tom was over, he had lured my sister in law, whom we’ll call Amelia upstairs to one of his units. When I agreed to let her go, I said, “Hey wait a minute! You’re not a serial killer are you, Tom?” He laughed. “Not as far as you know,” he answered. Comforting. “My wife wouldn’t go for that,” he finished. Ok. Well, that settled it. His wife wouldn’t allow murder, so Tom was safe.

So Amelia wandered off with a stranger named Tom and I was holding down the fort at the sale.

Tom and Amelia were gone for a long time.

Too long.

So I finally texted Amelia and said, “You still alive?”

She replied immediately. “Ha ha. Yes. Just finishing looking at the last condo. Back in a few.”

I thought about that for a second and said, “How do I know this isn’t Tom using Amelia’s phone to say ‘ha ha’ to me?”

She didn’t reply to that. I think she was either done with me or dead.

A few minutes later Tom and Amelia walked back in and I got invited to go tour his condos. Of course, I said yes, because no one had learned anything from all of this.

The sale went on. We sold our dining set for more than it was worth because a lady wanted it so badly. We didn’t want to sell it so we set a crazy price on it and she accepted.

The stream of people traffic that day was steady and thick. It wasn’t unusual to have 5-10 people inside at the same time.  Because of that, sometimes I would look up and not even realize who was inside shopping.

It was just such a time when Robert walked in.  I wasn’t the first to notice him.  Apparently, he marched in rather brashly and asked where the bathroom was. When Amelia pointed to the bathroom and said it was closed off and nothing was for sale in there (we’re keeping our toilets…), he went in boldly, turned on the light, and locked the door in our faces. Feel free to use the facilities, Robert. Help yourself. He did.

After relieving himself against our will, he shopped items in the kitchen and finally settled on 6 low-priced, stainless steel knives. He then walked over to a chair that nobody bought that day and plopped down in it, setting his unpurchased knives loudly down on a glass coffee table that was also for sale.  He was then sitting 3 feet from me.  Ignoring him was no longer an option.

I looked over at this man and took a moment to just absorb the outfit. His rotund, old-man body shape was stuffed awkwardly into baseball pants that were very much 20 pounds ago. Into those baseball pants, he tucked a turquoise golf shirt, and he finished off the look with loafers that a CPA might wear to work.

In the beginning, I was both entertained and amused. Even delighted. Here was a colorful character who was surely just resting up and chatting lightly before making massive and lucrative purchases. My delighted amusement lasted about 90 seconds. That’s how long it took me to figure that I wasn’t dealing with Entertaining.

I wasn’t dealing with interesting.

I was dealing with Crazy.

Amelia was in and out during my conversation with Robert. At this point, he hadn’t told me his name. From his vantage point, he thought he could see that our walls were warped. The solution was to panel them with oak from Home Depot. Amelia wasn’t taking the bait. She fought back. She doesn’t like oak and so she told him so.

“Well, then,” Robert countered…not to be deterred. “You can go to the Home Depot and sit down with the nice lady and find out what is selling. Then you go over to Lowes and sit down with the nice lady and say what is selling. Then you find the closest thing to what is selling to what you like. And that is called ESTABLISHING REALITY.”

Ok, Robert. What in the name of James Madison are you talking about?

This went on for awhile and my sister-in-law was politely responding to his crackpot advice because I was too busy taking a covert video of his crackpot advice. I did my best to blur his face so that I can’t be sued in the unlikely event that this post reaches more than 30 people. Take a moment and enjoy. Don’t miss the outfit.

There are a couple of things to note about this video. One is, I completely allowed my sister in law to handle the excruciating responses that were required at the end of all of his unnecessary and boneheaded renovation tips. But to retaliate, she threw me UNDER THE BUS and went outside and downstairs into the parking lot to “deal with the signs.” Huh.

So at this point, I was alone with Bob.  Knowing that she’d gone out to work on the signs, he took the opportunity to complain about our signs. He’d apparently passed the driveway three times.

“So what brought you here today?” I asked. “Were you shopping sales on Craigslist, or were you just out for a drive and saw our ‘bad signs?’”

And this is when weird shook hands with insane.

“Permission to speak Truth?” he asked. My eyes got buggy and I paused a long moment before answering.

“Uhhhhhh, I don’t know. Permission granted, I guess.” I mean, what am I gonna say? I had to know where this was going. At this point, I grabbed ahold of my brain and begged it to remember the next few seconds.

“I am guided by intuition,” he began. “Fueled by synchronicity, and drawn to grace.”

So, the powers of the universe led him there? I’m not quite sure what he intended me to take from that, but I am quoting.

“Well, grace is good,” I said.  Amelia was still gone. Dork.

“I am looking at that mirror,” he continued. “And feeling an attraction.” Seriously. “But I can’t quite seal the bond.” Again, I quote. Again, I have no idea what he was saying. I translated it in my mind as, ‘how much is that mirror? Maybe I will buy it.’

I needed Bob gone, so I got up, walked to the mirror, and looked at how we had priced it.

“This mirror has a price of $20 on it, but for you, right here, right now, it’s $10.” He looked at me and then looked at the coffee table.

“Will you throw in the knives for free?”

“Done,” I said.

Now get out.

Get. Out.


Here’s where the second almost-dead body came in.

Robert told me he had a bad back and needed me to carry the mirror down to his van.  What are the odds of that?

I collected his money before picking up that mirror. I’m not totally stupid. And I shot a look to my sister-in-law before walking past her with this asylum escapee. I’m not sure what I said in that look. Maybe it was a plea for help. Maybe it was a stink eye for her jaunt down into the parking lot. Maybe it was a warning to call the police if I wasn’t back up the stairs in 3 minutes.

I went down into that parking lot and I wasn’t back in 3 minutes.

After I put the mirror in his trunk, he wanted to know how he could continue our lifetime relationship. Another quote. Yeah, Bob. Sorry. That ain’t happening.  As I was trying to back away from the vehicle, he asked my name, wanted to know if it was the “name God gave me,” told me about his entire family history, explained how his own family name got truncated at Ellis Island, and asked for my dad’s phone number. I gave him my dad’s phone number. He said he wanted to rent the place. What do you say? I’m sorry. We can’t rent to you…on the basis of YOU’RE CRAZY.  Sorry, Dad.  Meanwhile, back in Room 206, Amelia had grown very concerned.  She called me but the phone rang right there in the unit. I hadn’t taken it with me. She then started looking over both balconies for his vehicle. He had parked in a blind spot. She was convinced that I was already under a concrete slab somewhere or stuffed into his trunk with the mirror and the knives when I finally walked back in.

My exhausting story about this dude ended with this:  “I’ve told you my story, but you can just call me Bob the Obscure.”

I made $10 off Bob the Obscure.

It’ll cost me $250 in therapy just to get back to where I was. Maybe we can just chalk it up to a lesson in “establishing reality.”

I’ve been in pursuit of reality for a long time. Remarkably few people are.

Being There

Today I had a couple of hours when I wasn’t feeling peaceful. When this happens–and sadly enough, it happens more often than it should–it is almost always for reasons too dumb to verbalize to other humans. And so I would never. I won’t even say them aloud to myself while walking or praying. What is there in my life that would justify anything but peace? I am healthy. I have everything I need plus a thousand million luxuries. I have a loving husband, 4 wonderful children, and family and friends. I mean, for the love of Ramon (I don’t like to say Pete), I have Jesus! I have too much. So I get irritated with myself when I feel this weird unsettled offness. And I try to stop it through a brisk walk or a prayer or anything that seems like it would serve as an attitude shifter. Today I chose to walk. I walked up to Florida College and back. I passed three old men, 2 german shepherds, one truly strange-looking dog, and a person on a bike that surely died shortly after she passed me. There are a lot of older people in my area. I hope to be one some day.

When I returned home, there were 3 or 4 extra messes that had not existed when I left. So of course, I barked a few orders and set the laws in motion. Heads were gonna roll if those messes didn’t disappear quickly enough. And then I decided to take a shower. That was more for others than for myself. After working in the yard all day, I had smelled better.  One can only require so much of their deodorant.  As I was about to step into the shower, the knocking at my bedroom door began. This is not terribly uncommon and a person has to double lock doors to keep out the riff raff. But that’s where this story goes bad.

“What?!” I said, annoyed that anyone was trying to get in.

“Can we come in?” I heard little Beloved’s voice.

“I’m taking a shower,” I said. “What do you need?”

And then I heard it. That phrase that was both the best and worst thing I’ve heard in weeks. Her answer, totally bare and honest.

“Nothing really,” she answered. “We just want to hang out with you.”

Oh man. There I was in my unpeaceful state of “what is your problem” and my daughters, 7 and 9 years old, were knocking at my door…needing nothing but my presence. Just wanting to hang out with me. How long until that is no longer the case? How long until I am begging to hang out with them and it is their tone laced with irritation or impatience?

I don’t know how long.

So you better believe I got clean fast and went looking for my daughters.

I found them reading on the porch swing, and they had left a space just right for me in the middle. I slid into my spot, patted them on the legs, and we hung out.

And I felt peaceful.